Reliving childhood through old ads

By: 
AMORETTE ALLISON
History Columnist

One of the things I love best about transcribing the daily Star Dust history column in the Miles City Star is reliving my childhood. I am old enough that I remember personally some of the people mentioned in 100 or 75 years ago but I really love 50 years ago. I clearly remember 1967.

I remember when they moved the ice skating rink from the high school bowl — which was an actual bowl in those days — to where it is now. The warming house was an old box car with a wood stove for heat. I marvel now that it didn’t burn down with a bunch of freezing children inside.

I also love reading the advertisements in The Star because I find myself reliving my childhood through them. And this time of year, reliving Christmas Past.

In 1967, Tempo was advertising some fabulous new toys! The “Thingmaker” set and “Incredible Edibles.” My younger brother had Incredible Edibles.

They would never be sold today because they involved a thing sort of like a miniature waffle iron that got hot enough to burn. The Thingmaker had several metal molds that you poured some sort of plastic goop into, then turned it on. 

And it got HOT! 

The “things” were worm and bug-like bits of gunk you could stick to the wall and they would leave a greasy mark behind. 

There were several kinds of Thingmakers. Creepy Crawlers, Fun Flowers — it was the 1960s after all — Fright Factory and others. 

I have no idea what the gunk was that was included in “Incredible Edibles.” It was edible, in the sense it was non-toxic and you could chew it. As I recall, it was faintly fruit-flavored but it was definitely not tasty.

I do remember it fondly, if I am confused as to why my father, who was a family doctor, would ever have allowed us to have it. My mother must have directed Santa to purchase it for my brother.

Mattel is supposed to be bringing back something called the “Thingmaker,” but rather than a $10 toy, which was pricey for its time, that heats up, it will be a 3-D printer and cost several hundred bucks. 

The toys produced probably won’t stick to the wall and leave greasy spots.

There were several other toys in that same Tempo ad that I also remember. The Kaboom game involved a hand pump designed to inflate a balloon with the goal to force someone else to cause the balloon to explode. I have no recollection of how the game was supposed to be played. We just blew up balloons until they exploded.

There was also a balancing game called “Tip It,” which was described as “wacky fun.” I don’t think I ever played with this thing but I remember the commercials. The commercials on television always gave you the impression that the toys or games were really fun, the same way they do now. I vaguely remember you were supposed to remove colored disks with a fork-like tool and not let the thing fall over.

Doesn’t seem all that exciting to me.

There were several games popular that year that were designed based on the concept of letting the other guy suffer, so to speak. Someone I know had a “Time Bomb,” which was a toy bomb with a timer in it that you tossed around. That was it. You wound it up, threw it around, and it made a noise when the timer ran out.

It was a simpler time.

Twister had come out in 1966 and was, at least according to the cover illustration, sort of an adult party game. The people laughing hysterically while playing it were adults, the men all in sports jackets and ties. Seriously. Ties.

Believe it or not, the game was actually considered rather scandalous. Many major chains refused to stock it because people might wind up in indecent poses!

Then Johnny Carson was paid by Milton Bradley, the game’s manufacturer, to play the game on “The Tonight Show.”

Johnny Carson played it with Eva Gabor.

You young folks will not appreciate what that meant but it made the naughty game wildly popular.

For a fun fact for trivia fans, the game was originally going to be called “Pretzel” but someone else already had that name trademarked for a game. I wonder what it was?

There is a game in the advertisement that has me baffled. It was called “Cold Feet,” and was described as “The squirt game! Tense action as comical revolver squirts once in every six times — unpredictably.” 

Never heard of it. Don’t remember the commercials on TV. I can see it not being popular with parents, especially in cold climates. And how could it squirt every sixth time “unpredictably?” Either it squirted every sixth time or it didn’t. 

There was also a Kreskin E.S.P. set. Kreskin was a magician who exploited the popular 1960s belief in “extra-sensory perception.” All I remember about it — a friend had it — was a set of cards with simple patterns. The cards appear in “Ghostbusters,” if you’re curious.

They were a wave, circle, square, something like that. There weren’t very many and we were smart enough kids to figure out guessing worked as well E.S.P. 

Most of the games and toys of that decade have faded away. How many people do you know who look forward to an exciting “home version of Password?”

There are a few though. I am too old to play Twister. I’d probably break a hip or something. 

But “Candyland,” which is also advertised, is still around. I played it a decade or so ago and I think it’s still available. And I can play without burning myself or spraining anything.

(Amorette Allison is a local history columnist.)

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